As 2017 comes to a close, we want to pause to reflect on how you helped us to defend and advance bird conservation in a challenging year. From defending our vital conservation programs to victories for bird habitat in the Colorado River Basin and climate wins in states around the country, THANK YOU for standing with us this year. Your actions made a real difference for birds and the places they need.
- Defending conservation programs. In the face of an administration budget proposal that would have crippled conservation programs that protect birds and other wildlife, Audubon members spoke out. Congress has listened and rejected this budget proposal. The final spending bill for 2018 is still being negotiated, but it does not include devastating reductions to conservation programs thanks to bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. We are heartened to see this support and will work with you for even stronger funding for many programs to meet the needs of people and wildlife, and for the removal of harmful policy riders. Congress must pass a budget by December 22 to avoid a government shutdown.
- Restoring the Colorado River Basin. Colorado River Minute 323 was signed on September 26, 2017 between the United States and Mexico. This agreement will ensure water commitments for environmental and restoration projects that will benefit ecosystems, birds, and people on both sides of the border.
- Advancing climate solutions at the state level. This year Audubon members’ actions helped achieve key state-level wins across the country. North Carolina activists celebrated Governor Roy Cooper signing the state’s renewable energy bill, which will double the amount of large-scale solar installed in the state, provide more affordable options for rooftop solar, and offer more clean energy for the state’s universities and military bases. Audubon advocates in California helped ensure the reauthorization of the state’s cap-and-trade program until 2030, which will help California reach its goal of cutting its carbon pollution 40 percent by that same year. Solar energy users picked up a huge win in Arkansas this year thanks to advocates in the state. The solar-boosting order from the Arkansas Public Service Commission made over 100 references to Audubon Arkansas's arguments on behalf of improving renewable energy policy for Arkansans, once again showing the credibility and effectiveness of our network in action.
- Protecting conservation plans for Greater Sage-Grouse. In June, the Interior Department began a review of the historic federal conservation plans that protect 67 million acres of habitat important to Greater Sage-Grouse and more than 350 other species of birds and wildlife. Strong, public support for the plans from Audubon staff, chapters and members along with many allies have allowed western leaders to stand strong against administration proposals that would have undermined protections. The administration will continue its review into the coming year, offering more opportunities for Audubon and our partners to demonstrate support for maintaining the current plans. As Governor Mead of Wyoming said: “We can’t have wholesale changes in wildlife management every four or eight years. I don’t think that is the best way to sustain populations or provide the necessary predictability to industry and business in our states.”
- Supporting recovery efforts in the wake of hurricanes. The summer of 2017 was unprecedented in recorded history, with three major hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Marie—hitting the Gulf Coast state, multiple Caribbean islands, and Dominica in a single season. The long-term impact of these storms on critical island, wetlands, and coastal forest habitats is still unfolding, as are efforts to maintain community resilience in their aftermath. Audubon has supported strong requests by the states of Texas and Florida to Congress for supplemental funding, which included important investments in natural defenses in island, wetland, and other habitats to improve the long-term resiliency of these communities and their environments.
- Growing bipartisan support for Land and Water Conservation Fund. As the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) faces potential expiration in October 2018, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have rallied together in support of the program. The fund, which uses money from offshore oil and gas leasing, has been an important tool for conserving bird habitat in every state for over 50 years. This year, Audubon helped convince over 200 members of Congress—including a record number of Republicans—to support robust funding for LWCF, and helped persuade over 215 members to cosponsor a bill that would permanently reauthorize the program. Included in this total are some new House champions that are gearing up to become strong advocates for Audubon’s conservation priorities in the future.
- Building on an innovative approach to conservation through the Farm Bill. In a bipartisan effort, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act, which aims to expand, strengthen and improve the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an innovative approach to conservation first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. This program is important for many birds, such as Wood Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, Bobolinks, Lesser Prairie-Chickens, Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Tricolored Blackbirds, and more. The program encourages farmers, ranchers, conservation groups, agricultural organizations, and state and local agencies to work together to maintain and enhance habitat and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources on agricultural and private lands. The proposed improvements will provide more resources for partners and producers to expand the reach and effectiveness of conservation projects, while cutting red-tape, increasing flexibility to attract new partners, and encouraging innovation in addressing natural resource concerns. Audubon was directly involved in advocating for these new improvements as part of our Farm Bill reforms platform.